Greg Ensell, Vice President of Government Relations
Today is the 53rd day of legislative session. The legislature has largely returned to committee work - now hearing bills from the opposite chamber. The last day to hear senate bills in house committee, and vice versa, is March 29th.
Also, Republican small-group budget discussions began in the senate this week. The meetings reportedly provided an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget and an update on state revenue. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) reported that legislators will have a smaller surplus to work with as state tax collections were down $91 million in January. It is unclear now much new spending the budget will include. While there is no shortage of appropriations bills, including the AzHHA-supported SB1354, there is also a strong desire among legislative leaders to pay down state debt and make a sizable deposit to the state rainy day fund.
AZHHA PRIORITY LEGISLATION
SB1089: INSURANCE; TELEMEDICINE
Sponsored by Senator Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek), SB1089 is intended to expand telemedicine coverage. The bill requires commercial health insurers to cover medical services provided by telemedicine if they cover the same service when provided in person.
AzHHA strongly supports the bill.
STATUS: The bill unanimously passed the Senate on February 25th. It was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee in the house.
SB1352 Health Care Directives Registry; Transfer
Sponsored by Senator Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek), SB1352 is intended to improve healthcare provider access to healthcare directives like living wills. The bill moves the Arizona Health Care Directive Registry from its current location at the Secretary of State to the state’s Health Information Exchange organization Health Current.
AzHHA strongly supports the bill. Increased provider access to healthcare directives is consistent with the policy priority of improving end-of-life care.
STATUS: The bill unanimously passed the Senate on February 27th. It was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee in the House.
SB1354: GRADUATE MEDICAL EDUCATION; APPROPRIATION
Sponsored by Senator Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek) is intended to make a significant dent in the physician shortage affecting Arizona; especially in rural and medically underserved areas. As amended, the bill appropriates: 1) $20 million to AHCCCS for Graduate Medical Education (GME); 2) $11 million to U of A Medical School; 3) $10 million for costs related to nurse training and to encourage retired doctors to return to practice; 4) $4 million to Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) for the primary care provider loan repayment program; and, 5) $5 million to the Board of Medical Student Loans.
Arizona has not appropriated state general funds for GME in approximately a decade. In 2018, AHCCCS provided more than $239 million in GME payments to Arizona hospitals. Of that amount, $205 million in federal matching funds were triggered by $88 million from local, county, tribal jurisdictions, hospitals and universities. If passed, more than $66 million ($20 million state funds + $46 million federal funds) will be available for medical residencies and rotations in rural and medically underserved areas.
STATUS: AzHHA strongly supports the bill. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 28-2 on March 4th. It is awaiting committee assignment in the House.
HB 2041: HOSPITAL ASSAULTS; TESTING; REPORTING; SANCTIONS
Sponsored by Representative Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley), HB2041 is intended as a state-level response to the nationally recognized issue of healthcare workplace safety. The bill: 1) Allows hospital employees, volunteers, and others who have been assaulted petition a court to require the assailant get a blood test; and, 2) Requires a hospital to report an assault to the ADHS within 72 hours of an assault.
UPDATE: The bill was amended by removing the statutory reporting requirement and replacing it with nonbinding language expressing the legislature’s intent to encourage hospitals to keep and report statistics on workplace safety to public policy researchers. AzHHA is now neutral on the bill. The bill passed the House 57-2 on February 26th. It was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate.
H2122: DO-NOT-RESUSCITATE ORDERS; MINORS; PARENTAL CONSENT
Sponsored by Represenative Nancy Barto (R-Cave Creek), HB2122 is intended to prohibit healthcare providers from placing do-not-resuscitate (D-N-R) order on minors against the will of the parents or guardians. As amended the bill: 1) Prohibits providers from implementing a D-N-R order without the written or oral consent of both parents or guardian of a minor; 2) If the parent or guardian orally consents to implement a D-N-R order, two witnesses other than the parent, guardian or physician must be present and willing to attest to the consent; and, 3) Prohibits a healthcare provider from withholding care even if, using reasonable medical judgement, they believe that care will harm the patient and/or cause unnecessary pain or suffering.
UPDATE:The bill was passed by the House 58-0 on March 4th. It was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate.